Mayor and Council minutes – March 21, 2016

MAYOR AND COUNCIL

MARCH 21, 2016

Mayor Cerino called the meeting to order at 8:00 p.m. In attendance were Council members Liz Gross, Linda Kuiper, Samuel T. Shoge and Mauritz Stetson, W. S. Ingersoll, Town Manager, Jennifer Mulligan, Town Clerk and guests.

Mayor Cerino asked if there were any additions or corrections to the minutes of the Mayor and Council Meeting of March 7, 2016. Ms. Gross moved to approve the minutes of Febuary16, 2016 as submitted, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.

Mayor Cerino stated that operating funds on hand were $1,466,962.86 plus the funds from Washington College for the transfer of the Armory in the amount of $180,480.00, for a total of $1,647,442.86.

Mayor Cerino asked for a motion to pay bills. Ms. Gross moved to pay the bills as presented, was seconded by Mr. Stetson and carried unanimously.

Chief Baker gave the police report for February 2016. Mr. Stetson stated that he would like the officers to enforce the law against people driving while using their cell phones.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Mayor and Council received a letter from Jeff Thompson, Esquire on behalf of KRM Development Corporation an annexation request for properties on the north side of Chestertown from Scheeler Road to Hopewell Corner. Mr. Ingersoll stated that this is the earliest part of the process. Mr. Ingersoll stated that Urban Design Associates had prepared sketches of the entire area. Ms. Kuiper moved accept the proposal for annexation by KRM Development Corporation for the land from Scheeler Road to Hopewell Corner as demonstrated on the plat submitted by Jeff Thompson, Esquire, was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that there was an early request for Juneteenth festivities at the GAR building and the Wilmer Park scheduled for Saturday, June 18th.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that the Bocce League was present at the last meeting and would like to run their league independent of the Recreation Commission. Mr. Ingersoll had asked Ms. Amanda Miller of the finance department to go through the deposits made by the Recreation Commission over the past few years. She found $4,224.75 in Bocce League proceeds. He recommended turning them over to the independent league for the development of the league. Mr. Ingersoll thanked Ms. Miller for her research of the fees and expenditures.

Mr. Ingersoll stated that Ms. Mulligan drafted an Ordinance against feeding waterfowl that followed the littering Ordinance, in that what is not eaten by waterfowl remains on the streets (as had been demonstrated in Town recently). Chief Baker stated that the individual dumping all of the corn has been found and he thought that the problem was resolved. The legislation would be held in case feeding of waterfowl becomes a recurring problem. Ms. Kuiper asked if the “Do Not Feed the Animals” sign could be replaced.

Mayor Cerino stated that before he took office there was never a food truck in Town. An entrepreneur came to the Town about a year and half ago and regulations regarding food trucks began to evolve with food trucks being given permission to operate on private property, assuming that the trucks had permission from the property owner and upon site plan approval from the Planning Commission. This was done on a probationary basis.

Mayor Cerino stated that there have been conversations of the food trucks being permitted at Fountain Park and there was feedback from brick and mortar establishments regarding their concerns. Mayor Cerino stated that he would like to open the floor to anyone who wished to speak on the issue. He said that the Council would then discuss their opinions on the matter.

Mr. Richard Bland, whose mother owned Beverly’s Family Restaurant in the Washington Square Shopping Center, expressed concern over how the grease was contained, waste, refrigeration and storage were located. Mr. Bland stated that he thought better opportunities for a food truck would be at Worton Park during ball season or perhaps LaMotte Chemical or Washington College. He said that there were already vacant properties in Chestertown and if more food trucks were allowed he thought there would be more vacant properties.

Mr. Steve Quigg, owner of The Kitchen at the Imperial, stated that he employed people at all levels and said his business was open every day. He said that a food truck was inexpensive and a good start up idea but he saw this as “mission creep” where the food truck began as one thing and then morphed into something else entirely. He pointed out that while he had to stay open and pay his employees, food trucks were free to not work whenever they wanted.

Mr. Paul Hanley, owner of the Blue Heron, stated that all the restauranteurs in Town are part of the same small community and thought that they should work as allies. He said that he was not opposed to food trucks entirely and thought that they were here to stay. Mr. Hanley stated that the issue at hand was one of zoning and would apply to food trucks already in Town and future food trucks that choose to do business in Town in the future. He said that high-end concept food trucks in one place would prosper at the expense of the brick and mortar stores who compete for the same dining dollar.

Mr. Hanley stated that brick and mortar stores have costs far and above what food trucks incur. He said that he thought food trucks should stay on private property and if that was not the case he was concerned over where they would park and how many trucks would be permitted, as well as being concerned about noise and the view scape. Fees had to be discussed and he said that they should be substantial so people weren’t coming in from all over the Shore with their trucks. Mr. Hanley stated that he did not think tables and chairs should be permitted for food trucks if they were permitted on public streets. He recommended that trucks keep at least a 200’ distance from a brick and mortar restaurant. Mr. Hanley asked that the Council revisit allowing the Farmers Market to invite food trucks to the Market and questioned enforcement.

Ms. Kuiper asked Mr. Hanley how much licensing cost for his restaurant. Mr. Hanley stated that the business license is approximately $35.00, $300.00 for a license from the Health Department, the liquor license is $2,000.00 and his real estate taxes were approximately $6,300.00. Ms. Jen Laucik stated that the restaurants also pay their own trash and recycling fees.

Mr. Kevin Miller, owner of Papa Smurf Bar-b-que, stated that he is an entrepreneur just as a brick and mortar restaurant owner and had just as many bills. He said that he follows the State of Maryland laws for food trucks, has all of the required licenses, and rented a commercial kitchen. He said he has a grease trap and he pays to have it emptied at a proper receptacle. He said that the kitchen he rents helps this community; he owns property in Town and pays his share of taxes.

Mr. Miller stated that he believed new business had to be accepted in Chestertown in order for the Town to thrive. He said that not everyone can afford to go to the restaurants in Chestertown or might prefer a quick bite to eat. He said in addition to the costs of the brick and mortar restaurants, he pays a peddler’s license to the State in the amount of $308.00 and he is bonded for over $2,000,000.00. Mr. Miller stated that he attends local events when asked and stays regardless of the weather, noting that during the Harry Potter Festival he was the only food truck to show.

Mr. Miller stated that one of the things in the proposed Ordinance that should be looked at again was the timeframes that trucks were allowed. He said that he should be able to serve anytime a brick and mortar restaurant is permitted.

Mr. Jeff Colen, employee of the Black Burro, said that he lives in Town and was supporting himself by being part of this small business. He said that when the Black Burro was on private land, the landowners were being called and harassed about the truck parking in the lot. He said that the owner should not have to go through all of this trouble because she has passion for her business.

Ms. Kay MacIntosh, Economic Development Coordinator for the Town of Chestertown, stated that part of her job was to spark growth and said that she did not see the food trucks as great competition for the brick and mortar restaurants as she saw it as a different market. She said that food trucks can give entrepreneurs a chance to come up with a product, develop a following, and possibly lead to a brick and mortar restaurant. Food trucks appeal to younger diners and she thought it would draw people into Town and to the other businesses and generate foot traffic that was needed downtown. Ms. MacIntosh suggested a test for specific times and food trucks to see how it worked, noting that the food trucks had to be there during those times.

Ms. Ashley Herr, owner of the Black Burro, stated that all of the restaurant issues seemed to boil down to a comparable amount of money being put into their respective businesses and pulled back in. She said that she liked the idea of limiting permits for food trucks and said that there were petitions presented to the Town and that the people of Chestertown want food trucks. She said it was a different tier of food and a quick lunch, not the same demographic that would be sitting down for fine dining.

Mr. Stetson asked how Ms. Herr wound up on Cross Street when she had permission only for a private lot on Cannon Street. Ms. Herr stated that she was invited for a special event by her mother, who has a shop on Cannon Street. She said that she had a private deal with Mr. Fleetwood for use of his parking lot at the Washington Square Shopping Center. She said that people who own businesses in Town do not get to harass her or cry because they have competition, noting that a waitress from Beverly’s was sent out to take pictures of her when she was just trying to make money.

Mr. Ted Gallo, resident of Coventry Farms stated that he was present to show support for the food trucks. He said that he did not think people would be torn between going for fine dining or to a food truck. He said that as long as people are happy with whatever food experience they had when they visited, it may bring them back for another visit.   He also suggested limiting the number of food trucks as Chestertown was a small town. He said that New York City has some of the finest dining in the country, despite having a hot dog cart on every corner.

Ms. Jen Laucik, owner of the Chester River Wine & Cheese Shop and a homeowner in Town, stated that this has been the ugliest conversation in Chestertown played out in both the news media and the room. Ms. Laucik stated that this argument is not about the health and sanitation practices of the food trucks or their costs; it is about doing private business on public land. Current ordinances do not prevent food trucks in Chestertown as they are allowed on private property, which was no different than anyone with a brick and mortar establishment. Ms. Laucik stated that she supported the free market practice of transient food vendors identifying and negotiating for rental space in Town on private property as it was consistent and equitable with the practices brick and mortar businesses face when operating at a location in Town. Ms. Laucik stated that there should also be a licensing limit in Town on the number of transient food vendors and allocations to non-county residents, in an attempt to drive homeownership, business growth and development in Chestertown.

Ms. Laucik stated that she thought focus also had to be set on infrastructure problems including weekend trash removal, etc. as people walking around Town eating threw trash in the public trash receptacles and there were no restrooms down by the water or along Cross Street. Therefore, the visitors ask to use the facilities in the brick and mortar shops. Ms. Laucik added that food trucks flanking the Fountain Park would decrease the identity of the Park.

Ms. Laucik stated that the brick and mortar shops are open every day so the claim from a food truck vendor that there is no foot traffic is not true as consistency is important when trying to generate tourism in Town.

Mayor Cerino stated that food trucks were already in Town and the discussion was not about banning food trucks. He said the matter in question was if food trucks should be allowed on private property only or would the Town allow space on Town property.

Ms. Gross stated that the Council has had quite a while to think about food trucks and everyone had opportunity to discuss the issue. She said that she is not against food trucks and if she was going out to dine for a special occasion she would not go to a food truck. Similarly, she would go to a food truck if she was in a hurry and needed a quick bite. Ms. Gross stated that she also did not think that an unfair advantage should be given to one type of business over another by allowing food trucks to operate on public property. She said that she did not think public parking should go to food truck operators and felt that food trucks should be on private property. Ms. Gross stated that leasing of space is done in other Towns and when done at a central location can become a nice place with all varieties of food. Ms. Gross also stated that she thought 250’ distance should also be required from a neighboring restaurant.

Ms. Kuiper stated that she patronizes all the businesses in Chestertown and believes in free enterprise. She said that she was leaning towards allowing food trucks on private property and did not see a problem with food trucks downtown. Ms. Kuiper stated that food trucks at special events did not hurt and a trial run allowing the trucks one location on a public street was an option to be considered. Ms. Kuiper stated that the food trucks can’t be at the Fountain Park during the Farmers Market as there was no room and suggested possibly parking in front of the courthouse.

Ms. Kuiper stated that she would not support the distance of 250’ feet from a brick and mortar restaurant if it would lead to Mr. Miller losing his spot at the round-a-bout as he had been operating there for some time and should not have to move his truck due to a new regulation.

Mayor Cerino stated that he was initially the person who suggested considering setting aside part of a downtown block setting a limit on the number of food trucks permitted. He said that he was downtown every day and from Monday through Friday between 11 am and 2 pm it was quiet. He said that he saw food trucks as a “mini” Farmers Market, noting that most agreed the Farmers Market was a good thing as it increased volume downtown. He said that he did not see Chestertown becoming a “Food Truck Nation” where it would affect the brick and mortar establishments. He said that he was in favor of a small area for food trucks on a trial basis and said that food trucks should absolutely be allowed on private property.

Mr. Shoge stated that the younger people in Town seemed to want food trucks. He said that the public seemed to support the food trucks and he did as well, on private land. He said that a trial run on one side of Fountain Park might be a good start to see how it would pan out with limited hours and a limited location. Mr. Shoge stated that it was possible that food truck owners would one day open their own brick and mortar restaurant and there was nothing prohibiting a brick and mortar restaurant from obtaining a food truck.

Mr. Stetson stated that if a food truck could find a spot and rent space he was glad to see them in Town, but he did not think they belonged on a public street. Mr. Stetson stated that he personally did not think food trucks fit with a colonial town.

Mayor Cerino stated that the consensus seemed to be unanimous that food trucks can operate on private property and that they were three to two in favor of a trial run in a small area downtown. He asked Mr. Ingersoll to draft the language for introduction at the next meeting.

Mr. Bland asked if the same rules would apply if someone came in to Town with a food trailer or cart. Mayor Cerino stated that trailers and carts should be defined in the ordinance as well. Ms. Gross stated that a better term to use was “Mobile Food Service Facility”.

Mayor Cerino stated that there would be an Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday, April 26th by the Bayside Hoyas and the Kent County Health Department from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Mayor Cerino stated that there was a donation request from the HOYAS but thought it should be moved to the budget discussions coming up in a couple months.

Mr. Stetson stated that he went to Annapolis on March 10th to testify in support of the House Bill to keep the Hospital open.

Mr. Stetson stated that at the last COG meeting, Commissioner Fithian announced that Chestertown would receive the full 5% room rental tax in Chestertown which amounted to an additional $40,000.00 to $60,000.00 annually.

Mr. Stetson stated that he was nominated for president of the Council of Governments. The election would be at the April COG meeting.

Mr. Shoge stated that he also testified in Annapolis for the Hospital and said that there was a good representation and he was looking forward to hearing the results.

Mr. Shoge stated that there were complaints regarding the street sweeper on Calvert Street not hitting both sides of the street.

Ms. Kuiper stated that the Historic Society of Kent County was having their grand opening on Friday, March 25th from 5 pm to 7 pm.

Ms. Kuiper stated that it was not too late to volunteer for the Chestertown Tea Party Committee and the next meeting would be held on Tuesday, March 29th at 6:30 pm at the Visitors Center.

Ms. Kuiper stated that on Tuesday, March 29th at 6:00 pm there would be a joint public hearing with the Kent County Commissioners and Mayor and Council at 400 High Street to discuss the proposed new Enterprise Zone.

Ms. Kuiper stated that Secretary Gill from the Maryland Department of Commerce would be in Town on Wednesday, April 13th at 11:00 am. Anyone planning to attend should RSVP to Ms. Jamie Williams at Kent County.

Ms. Gross stated that she attended the hearing in Annapolis for the House Bill and testified, noting that it was a good showing for Kent County.

There being no further business, Ms. Gross moved to adjourn the meeting at 9:30 p.m., was seconded by Mr. Shoge and carried unanimously.

 

Submitted by:                                                 Approved by:

Jennifer Mulligan                                            Chris Cerino

Town Clerk                                                     Mayor

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